The Journey of a Story – Getting the Idea

Today I am setting out on a journey. I’m going to write a new short story.

Because I am a teacher, and teach creative writing as well as English, I thought I’d do a series of blogs about the process of writing the, so anyone who wishes can see how I work and what it might take to produce a story.

Mind you, I’m not saying the story will turn out to be a good one. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet here and suggest I am a great writer. But to go step-by-step through the process might help others who struggle with writing or are wondering where on Earth to start.

Nor am I promoting my writing method is the only proper one. There are as many ways to write as there are writers. So let’s just say this is one method by one writer. You can take from it what you will. I am what is called a “pantser” in writerly circles. That means I don’t normally plan a story out before I write — that’s what “plotters” or “planners” do. So I’m not going to do much planning before I kick off. Or I might make the exception and do that for this blog.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.

To me, that is part of the fun. Writing a story is like reading it for the first time.

 

Getting the idea.

At the time I’m writing this blog, I have little idea of characters and events. I went to buy a newspaper this morning and in the early light I thought I should write another story sometime. So naturally my thought was what it could be about. I am currently writing a series of novellas about the Greek god Dionysus running a music hall in Victorian-era London. I am almost finished the first draft. Dionysus has his maenad followers with him, and they are also the basis of a series of short stories I’m planning called Tales of the Maenads, a sort of companion volume to the book series.

My maenad stories can be set in any period of Earth’s history. I decided, for no particular reason, that this would be another maenad story involving Nicolas Copernicus. Why? well, I’m interested in astronomy, and he was one of the most influential thinkers in astronomical history. Also, I wanted to find out more about his character.

That meant doing research. I had a couple of books already with chapters on Copernicus. One is the excellent This Wild Abyss by Gale E. Christianson (The Free Press, 1978). This a detailed biography of the astronomer and his work which should prove an invaluable resource. I also have a copy of Copernicus’s book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), reproduced in its entirety in On the Shoulders of Giants edited by Stephen Hawking (Running Press, 2002). This contains, besides Copernicus’s almost unreadable tome, an excellent biography of Copernicus.

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So I read both of these but was still stuck for an actual idea. Copernicus led, it turns out, quite a boring life. He studied medicine and law, was appointed Canon of Frauenberg (Frombork) , wrote a book that revolutionised astronomy but which wasn’t published until the end of his life–literally. The first edition arrived at his bedside on the day he died. And that’s pretty much it. No juicy gossip about him, or questionable activities or notoriety (at least, not until after his death).

There didn’t seem to be anything on which to base story, especially one that would contain the worshipper of a pagan god. Then I realised Copernicus’s blandness could work in my favour. he was one of those helpful historical people whose life is not entirely known, or who was boring enough that incidents might be inserted in their life without upsetting too many historians. If little was known about him, I figured, I could invent “facts” as needed.

A few days later I was teaching and the students were working quietly (yes, in my class they do; I’m that sort of teacher). Bereft of ideas I took out my notebook and summarised what I knew of Copernicus. I jotted some ideas down, then crossed them out because they proved unworkable or just plain silly. I wanted the story to be about Copernicus’s book. I wanted my maenad character to be a servant of his. I wanted Copernicus himself to be a character in it, albeit perhaps a secondary one.

Then the thought struck me: what if someone wanted to steal the book or prevent it being published in some way. But who? The Catholic church at the time (the 1540’s) was actually quite happy for Copernicus to go against dogma and state the Earth orbited the Sun instead of the other way around. It was the Lutherans who were opposed to the idea. But having my bad guys Lutherans would not go down well with part of my potential audience. Besides, Copernicus had a Lutheran student, Georg Rheticus, who was instrumental in having the Revolutions published. My bad guy had to be someone else.

If the new Copernican system upset the old Aristotelian/Ptolemaic one, then it might be another pagan god who didn’t want the truth to be known about the universe.

Here was my idea. The followers of another god, upset that their hold on the minds of mankind would be even further eroded by the advancement of science, might seek to destroy Copernicus’s life-work. My maenad, although a pagan herself, and having doubts about the new system of her own, could realise that truth was better than lies and thwart the evil plan.

Now I had an idea, I continued my research about Copernicus, the city he lived in and other material that would help me flesh out the details. I decided on a name for my protagonist: Renata. Originally I settled on Katalin, but since Copernicus would be referred to as Father Kopernik, two characters with K-names might look odd.

So here I am. I have no idea about Renata’s character or precisely what part she will play in the story. I have little idea of the story itself other than a broad concept.

This is going to be fun.

 

Next part: Writing the first draft.

 

Russell Proctor – www.russellproctor.com

 

 

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Tomorrow’s Authors: Briari Hallow

This week’s fantasy author of the future is Briari Hallow, dedicated writer, Fantasy reader and animal lover. I’ve invited her to tell you about herself, what she has in mind for you, the fantasy reader, and her opinions on the future of fantasy.

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Briari Hallow (pen-name) is an aspiring writer living in Chicago with her significant other and their two cats and four ferrets (lovingly nicknamed Shanks Nation) four blocks from Wrigley Field. She began writing almost as soon as she could read, mostly stories of fancy regarding kitten rock stars and the adventures of her plush animals. It wasn’t until she was in the seventh grade and became involved in online roleplaying forums that she discovered just how passionate she was about improving her writing craft, and it was then that she began the first drafts of her never-ending novel. She quickly picked up Fantasy as her primary genre, although she dabbles in magical realism, literary fiction, and poetry (when the mood strikes her). Her day job is as a receptionist for a veterinary clinic where she is able to pursue her other passion, the care of non-magical creatures.

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Tell us about your work-in-progress.

 
When I was twelve or thirteen, I began roleplaying online and with my two closest girlfriends. It was amazing, to me, to be able to create these fantastic stories with others, not having any idea of where they were going or what who would say next. It was in these roleplays, which were centered around magically gifted teenagers, that I first created my male main character due to a shortage of male characters on the forums, and soon after I also discovered my female MC.

 
Eventually, I knew they came from the same world, one very different from the ones I was using them in on the forums. I could picture them sitting beneath a great tree together, eating some sort of overly ripe, bright magenta fruit the size of their hands. So I started writing their story.

 
The original opening scenes went nowhere for many years, but I always knew that these two characters were dearest friends in a world that I had not yet finished creating. It’s been about fourteen or so years, I think, that I’ve worked in this world and these characters, and it was only in 2014 that I finally finished a full draft of the first installation.

 

The series, The Divine Catalysts, is a YA High Fantasy series about a world that was broken when it was still new. Many years after its greatest tragedy, two youths become engulfed in an adventure deemed worthy by their Gods, and they begin a quest to fix what was broken many years ago.

 
I hope to pursue traditional publication for the series, although in recent years I’ve been mulling over the idea of self-publication. I’ve queried in two large rounds, revised many times, and have tried to build up my social media presence on briarihallow.com and through my handles @briarihallow on Twitter and Instagram. After this revision, which I hope is my final one, I plan on moving on to the second installation and do a final round of querying. After, if traditional doesn’t pan out, I likely will more seriously look into self-publication.

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Why do you like Fantasy as a genre?

 
As many of us can do for many of our quirks, I blame my parents for my liking Fantasy. At a very young age, my parents introduced me to fantasy. I became attached particularly to fairies, I think because my grandmother spent a lot of time in the garden and she herself believed in evil leprechauns and other such fairy tales from living in the Philippines, where magical realism was still very much a part of her everyday life.
My tastes have always remained there – I dabble in horror, or modern non-fiction, and have thought of doing some Victorian Era pieces, but at the end of the day stories of children overcoming great evils have always deeply resonated with me. So, too, do the ideas of dragons, or mermaids, or magic.

 
Who do you see as your writing influences?

 
It’s almost a cliché to say at this point, but J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien are some of my biggest influences. Rowling’s stories, especially, have helped me through some of the hardest parts of my life—in fact, I fully give credit to her books saving my life and helping me get out of the psychiatric ward a few years ago. I’ve always imagined that I would like to give readers some of what she gave me—strength and courage to face my emotions. Tolkien’s work is timeless, and I’ll always love the idea of hosting dwarves for dinner and grand quests with little hiccups in them.

 
But, additionally, among my favourite works are by Garth Nix, D.J. MacHale, Phillip Pullman, David-Clemente Davies, and Ernest Hemingway. All of their works influence my writing style – from Nix’s subtle horror themes, to Hemingway’s long, flowing sentences. Having also grown up a huge anime and manga fan, I feel wrong to not mention Hiyao Miyazaki’s work with Studio Ghibli, and Ken Akamatsu’s works, particularly Negima.

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What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”? Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?

 
I see these questions a lot on forums and in writing groups – what tropes are overdone, where is Fantasy, and the such.

 
The future of fantasy lies somewhere between bringing the things we love about the past and creating more idealized worlds like the one many of us would want to see.
I think most true fantasy fans will never tire of dragons, or elves, or dwarves, or elemental magic and so on. I don’t believe you can overdo a thing. You can do it badly. You can do it without making it your own. But you can’t overdo it.

 
However, that isn’t to say that we want the same exact things – we don’t want to see Tolkien’s world over and over. We want new worlds to explore and we want to meet new creatures and magics, even if they’re similar to others.

 
And, just as the people consuming these stories are vastly diverse, so should Fantasy become. Fantasy is still largely dominated by white characters, European settings, and sexist societies. Which isn’t inherently bad, as much high-fantasy is rooted in medieval Europe—but there comes a point in all forms of art where we need to start changing it to match the world we are in and the world we want to see. Especially for me who is a person of color, I want to see more positive diversity in our fantasy novels. This includes diversity in setting – the medieval Europe thing is fantastic, but I know a writer who is doing prehistoric fantasy with dinosaurs that looks amazing, and my version of “elves” live in a tropical, tribal village. There are many ways we can expand the fantasy genre so it continues to grow, and I think that’s very important.

 
I see a lot of discussions getting caught up in using the excuse of their own background to limit them – white writers not feeling comfortable writing POC, and POC not wanting to have white characters take major roles. But if, as many fantasy writers do, the worlds we are creating are not of our Earth, this is a moot point. Our skin color doesn’t influence who we are as people if we take away our society. In another society, skin color may not have mattered. In another society, women may never have been thought to be the weaker sex. And the brilliant thing is that we can make these changes to our made-up worlds without even needing to excuse this.

 
There are times and places where these themes have and do contribute to the plot and world of a story, but sometimes they aren’t needed as much. We don’t need a million more red-headed MCs, we don’t need another cover with a cloaked figure in the woods and a raven on a tree. We can create new types of worlds for our favorite magics, and I think it’s really important to see more diversity, even if it’s not in our own works but just by supporting those who are changing the mould of the fantasy genre.

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What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?

 
I’m sure mine are the same as many writers, I don’t believe I’ve struggled with “writer’s block” so much as “near-crippling self-doubt.” But I think they are in some ways the same thing.

 
I get down on myself a lot if I’m not physically sitting at my computer with my document open, editing and revising, but I always try to remind myself that just because I’m not revising my book physically doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it—which I often am. Anytime I’m quiet and thinking on my own, while driving or while waiting for someone, I usually am mulling over a detail of my world or a character, or what needs to be changed or improved.

 
I think the time I’ve spent on this first book has also gotten me down—over a decade, after all! But on the other hand, I’m very well-versed on the world I’ve created. I know a lot of history and lore and idiosyncrasies of the world that may not be relevant directly to my story, but are very relevant to the accuracy of the story to itself.

 
Going off of my earlier point, I struggled a lot because I had whitewashed my own characters. All of my characters were white. And I am not. My upbringing itself was very diverse—we never really made a big deal, expect perhaps a well-mannered joke, about the fact that I’m Asian and Hispanic. We never made a big deal about black cousins, or someone marrying a white person. But I struggled to realize that I had subconsciously made the decision to make all of my character white, because that’s what I was seeing when I was reading my favorite genre.

 
It took some time, but I changed up my main characters and the world they live in. And I love it the more for that change, because now when I imagine my world, it’s a world I would be happier to live in, where skin color, sex and sexual orientation aren’t issues. And this doesn’t take away from the world or make it less real. This is just a different world than the one we live in.

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Why is fantasy an important genre?

 
Fantasy as a genre allows us to experience magic in real ways, and humans have always been drawn to magic. You can’t tell, for instance, a Harry Potter fan that they don’t know what it feels like when Harry casts expelliarmus and defeats Voldemort. You can’t convince a His Dark Materials fan that they don’t know precisely how to get into the right mindset to read the alethiometer, or what it felt like when Lyra had to cross the river into Death and could feel her soul being stretched as she left her daemon, Pan, at its banks. You can’t tell me that I don’t know exactly what the biscuits and honey taste like in Bjorn’s house on the way to the Lonely Mountain.

 
Fantasy is an all-encompassing experience. People are so amped about VR experiences in modern day, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of us who already know what it feels like to experience another world, another person, things they can never experience in this life—because for many of us we can read or write these experiences, and feel them truly.

Briari Hollow

Thanks, Briari Hallow. Next week in Tomorrow’s Authors, Alex LeBlanc.

Tomorrow’s Authors: John Stum.

Today, the fourth in my series on the fantasy authors of tomorrow. Our guest blogger is John Stum, who will be telling you his views on fantasy, why he writes and also about his current work-in-progress.

  • Russell Proctor

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My name is John Stum and I am currently working on a new novel called Prince Phillip. It is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with a focus on the young Prince who was destined to break the spell. The book will follow his life, struggles, and lessons as he becomes a man worthy of breaking the curse. I thought it would be fun to look at a character that did not have a whole lot of time dedicated to him but was important to a classic story.

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I grew up on the classic Disney movies as well as the stories of knights and epic battles. It helped frame a lot of my views on what a man was as well as provided me with childhood heroes. Those characters, however, were always presented as fully formed and complete. As an adult, I understand that there is a lot more nuance and grey areas to life, a lot of things that have to happen to shape and form a person. Prince Phillip is my way of examining those factors. It is not necessarily a children’s story I am telling. It’s going to get a little dark and adult. But those stories are always some of my favourites.

 
It ties in with my favourite authors. After I started to crave deeper stories than Disney, I read authors like Anne MacCaffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern, Raymond Feist and his stories in Midkemia, and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I still enjoy light-hearted series. The Chronicle of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander is one of my favorites and I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to enjoy Harry Potter or The Hobbit. Those books all influenced me and my decision to get into fantasy writing.

 
Tales of heroes on noble quests with magic and adventure are important for the soul. They inspire thought and creativity. Many genres look at the way the world is, and a lot of them examine it the way the author thinks it should be. These genres are still bound by rules and logical thought. Fantasy throws that all out and looks at the impossible. By stepping out of the realm of reality, fantasy allows us to really see our world and ourselves. It opens us up to impossible things allowing is to truly push the bounds of reality. Fantasy is beautiful like that and one of the reasons why I love it.

 
Of course fantasy does have some baggage to it. It can feel like an old and outdated genre. We live in crazy times, though, full of rapid change. I think audiences want something familiar to cling on to. We are seeing it in Hollywood with how many movies rely on nostalgia to produce feeling and connection. This is where fantasy has an advantage. It is a nostalgic genre, but one capable of producing something new and unique.

 
Already, the trend in fantasy seems to be the number of sub-genres that are coming out. Grimdark, urban fantasy, supernatural, etc. The fantasy umbrella is splintering out to smaller and smaller niches with the rise of self-publishing and the relative ease of indie authors to find their market, at least compared to ten years ago.

 
This does lead to some annoying things about fantasy. The order surrounding fantasy creatures is getting eroded. Vampires and zombies, which may fall more under horror but still share a fantasy link, are no longer morally or existentially terrifying. Anne Rice made her vampires beautiful and desired, but Interview With a Vampire still showed the tragedy and horror of that existence. When lore is not being eroded, it is being clung to with dogmatic obsession. There is the perfect elf that seems to exist only as a Mary Sue or Gary Stu. Fantasy does lend itself more to that problem than other genres.
This is not an indictment of stories like that. I have enjoyed several when they are done right. If the author has found a voice and an audience, then great. I wish them nothing but the best and continued success. I just personally find stories like that sacrifice a lot of potential themes and messages at the expense of these issues.

 
Overall, fantasy is a fun and exciting genre. It offers a lot for potential readers and has many bright horizons ahead of it.

 
You can follow me through most of the normal social media outlets. I am on Twitter @steelstashwrit1, Facebook at www.facebook.com/steelstashwrit1, or my blog at www.steelstashwriting.com. Be sure to like and follow for more information and progress on Prince Phillip or sign up for my quarterly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/diOmdH.

John Stum

 

Tomorrow’s Authors – Aravind Pradhyumnan

Continuing the series of Tomorrow’s Authors, in which I hand over to guest bloggers, the next generation of fantasy writers. These writers are as yet unpublished, but working hard to bring their own version of this great genre to a reading audience. Today our blogger is Aravind Pradhyumnan.

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Recently, I joined a support group for Fantasy writers. It is heart-warming to find there are entire communities of people who want to help their fellow novice writers. I am a Masters student pursuing Aerospace Engineering far from home, and I took to writing as a hobby. Soon, my penchant for the craft turned the hobby into a fierce passion and helped me get back from a dark place. This I did by creating a fantasy world of my own. If not for the incredible support and advice from fellow writers, I may never have turned my outlines into the first draft of my manuscript. On that note, thank you, Russell, for giving me a rub.

 
I would like to say I am the next phenomenon sweeping through the Fantasy genre, and the household name of the next decade. But my name is hard to pronounce, and I am but an aspiring author.

 
But that’s enough about me, let me tell you about my work-in-progress, which has the working title Black Rose Bloodmage.

 
I do not have a cover art or any illustration to give a taste of my work yet. But I do have a song by Opeth in mind that captures the brutal beauty of world I’ve imagined. Listen to it reader and hear what I hear, see what I see. Opeth: “Bleak”.

 
Adrya is a country with a bloody history. Due to the nature of magic, there was tremendous bloodshed and the world saw the decline of powerful creatures that roamed the wild. Men killed one another. This was characteristic of the Magethic Era.

 
However, an ambitious man, Adrian, took the crown along with a coterie of powerful mages at the time, and heralded in the New Era. The country grew more stable as all unaffiliated mages were systematically eradicated. Prosperity was ushered into the years that followed under the rule of the immortal King. However, Enthaumy – the magic system, became forbidden knowledge and was henceforth only shared among a few members of the peacekeeping Justiciary.

 
By the year NE 88, a rogue mage, Gathvel has risen to the upper echelons of the Black Rose Guild. He remains in hiding both from the Crown, as well as his own past. But his life changes when he adopts a nine-year-old girl. After a botched assassination mission, Norman, an Inspector of the Justiciary catches Gathvel’s scent.

 
The first book of a hopeful trilogy deals with this hunt – who will emerge from this ordeal alive? I aim to explore themes of friendship, bonds, and how even men set in their ways can change.

How this project came to be:
Originally I set out to create a magic system that seemed realistic and had a tangible, measurable cost, with world-changing ramifications. I used my Engineering education to help legitimise the workings of the magic system I came to call Anthaumy. As it grew and developed in front of my eyes, they branched into rather specific fields of “science” of Enthaumy and Alchemy.

 
Along with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Second Law of Anmodynamics came to be revered in Adrya. Mages were scholars after all. The law states that the Antopy of Miridian always increases, but its saturation remains infinite. I understand this sounds like gibberish, but the book will ensure it makes sense.

 
So as you can see, I spent the bulk of my time creating the magic system and it led me to create a world for it to exist. Over the course of a year, I had created a country with a rich culture and history, a functioning economy, and quirks specific to this world.
My first attempt at creating a plot set in this world however, was a travesty as terrible as the events of the Magethic Era. It was a piss-poor story, that incorporated all elements of the world I created, but the plot itself held no water. I was disappointed, and all but abandoned the project.

 
Enter Brandon Sanderson. Figuratively speaking. The man has lectures on creative writing that breathed a new life into the fading embers of the passion for my tales set in Adrya. In a matter of weeks I had characters and conflicts that produced elements of the plot I described. I streamlined the magic system and the cut out elements of the world that I felt were unnecessary.

 
I found that I was a heavy outliner and in few more months, I managed to create a solid outline to base my manuscript on. With more advice and encouragement from fellow writers, I finally set pen to paper. Now I am 9000 words into my first draft, and I just wrote my first fight scene. Enthaumy was finally on paper and it read better than I hoped. I know exactly where the book is headed and by my ambitious estimate, I should have a completed first draft by March.

The struggles along the way:
Time has proven to be my best friend, as well as my worst enemy. Writing can seem like a chore sometime and there always may seem like something else is just a little more pressing. Getting past that resistance to start typing into the laptop has been the biggest hurdle I personally face.

 
But this is where the support groups on Facebook help. Good people are all around and they provide motivation to resume writing, whether they realise it or not. And once I’ve entered that headspace, it becomes easier to write and harder to stop.

 
Other times, I’m convinced what I’m writing is digital dogshit, but then accomplished authors tell us that is normal and even they feel similarly at times. When you’re in agreement with Joe Abercrombie, it is likely that you may be on the right track. This hasn’t been a debilitating struggle for me though and I’m confident to a degree that my writing isn’t all that terrible. And hey, that’s not so dreadful, right?

My influences:
It’s hard to point to an author as an influence. I think I just read the right books at the right time which encouraged me to develop my own magic system. These were the popular debut works of authors from the last decade – Pat Rothfus, Scott Lynch, and Lord Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie.

 
I like to think I have learnt from each of these authors, and I might have to actually build a shrine for Brandon Sanderson. What I’m writing may be considered Dark/Hard Fantasy and I certainly will not be pursuing my passion if not for these authors.

Fantasy – Its importance and what it means to me:
The human mind is fascinating. We can see with our eyes closed. We can see even without them, in fact. With our mind’s eyes we see into the past and more importantly, into the future. I heard a psychologist lecture that it was this ability to peer into the future that made us the intelligent species that we are today.

 
But this also opened other doors for our mind’s eye. We can look at things that aren’t, we can see things that could be, and we can even see things that couldn’t be. Our mind can create entire worlds where we are gods. We take literary fiction above and beyond its limits, and this is why Fantasy and Science Fiction are here to stay.

 
We humans started out as hunter-gatherers. Adventure and exploration is a part of us. So no wonder we as readers and writers want to explore new worlds and possibilities, and there are few things comparable to being immersed into a fantastic world. People say fantasy is a means to escape reality– yes, that can be the case. But to me it is a means to explore beyond reality.

 
As a reader, this is what I want. As an author, I hope to provide others the same. And if you give me your time, I have a story to tell. Follow me on twitter at @pradhyumnan503.

– Aravind Pradhyumnan

 

Tomorrow’s Authors: Debdip Chakraborty

 

Today’s post continues the series of interviews with unpublished writers of fantasy. While they are still struggling to finish their works or await publication, they represent the fantasy we’ll be reading in years to come. The interview on this post is with Debdip Chakraborty.

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I was born into a world of books and writing, so I guess I was fortunate enough to be born in a family which had tremendous love and nurture of literature and art. My granddad was an avid reader, which he passed on to her daughter, my mom, and she is the woman who has given me every thoughts and ideas and made my life much more interesting with books.

As I kid, I liked isolation, and my ideas were always too weird or laughable to share, so I used to enjoy more of the characters that I read than the company of people. The interactions with characters in my head made me to pick up writing my own fan-fiction, which later changed into my writing.
Years turned, and after drifting through books, of all genres, shapes and sizes, I felt fantasy is the genre which speaks the most to me, and resonates with me.

 
1. Tell us about your work-in-progress.
Being an unpublished author is hard. You’re stuck in a boat, sailing in a vast sea, your destination is nowhere in sight. And you don’t want to go back to the land you just left. I guess that’s what I feel right now. More so, because I’ve miles to go before I finish my first draft. The dreaded first draft.
Currently, my main project, a planned fantasy trilogy named Ode to the Fallen, is stuck in the first draft.
It is about an Imperial Prince, who never dreams of power for himself but only kills and conquers in the name of his father, the Emperor, even if it means killing his kin. There is also a sorceress, who is seeking to revive a High God, fallen and broken; however, she knows that time is running out. A cannibal and barbarian veteran soldier seeks to wreck vengeance for cleansing the sins of the past. All their paths will cross once the world will be opposed by a far greater and ancient threat that’s beyond their comprehension or power. Hopefully, by 2018, I can end up finishing with the draft of the first novel of the trilogy.
Apart from that, I do have a sci-fi in work, still at the nascent stages, a few ideas of comic books, and a host of poetry.

 
2. Why do you love fantasy as a genre?
The boundaries of this genre are limitless. While most of the other genres do get tamed by having a “realistic boundary”, fantasy (sci-fi is considered as a sub genre within fantasy) provides an author with the concept of endless loops and probabilities.

 
3. Who do you see as your writing influences?
I was a four year old when my granddad introduced me to the world of literature and arts. It all started with the Hindu and Greek epics. Around the age of twelve I discovered my passion of writing and “Papa” Tolkien’s books. Those shaped my genre of writing: fantasy. Over the years, two other primary influences came into my life: Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker. Both of them are towering geniuses when it comes to the genre of fantasy and literature. They’ve pushed the aspects of fantasy and set a new bar where I feel few can reach.

 
4. What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”? Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?
The future of fantasy as a genre really does seem bright. With the old guards of the genre going strong with their new series, fantasy as a genre since the post 2000s has seen a host of new and emerging authors who’re fit to carry on the battalion. Fantasy as a genre has much gained the hype and deservingly so, with the adaptation of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by the HBO popular show A Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin does deserve every ounce of credit for popularizing the genre.
There are readers on both ends of the spectrum. There are some who want the fantasy with tropes, the known tropes, just to get a familiar setting. There are also readers, who want fantasy to be with new ideas/ thoughts. Both does have its pros and cons.
While having the known fantasy tropes does possess the readers with familiar grounds, and not to scramble too much and being clueless, the author does have a fear of being a “Tolkien” or any other author imitator.
However, present things too fresh and new, and the readers may feel clueless as well. Having everything original doesn’t mean that it is going to work as well, and that itself is also a trope.
I feel a proper mixture of good old fantasy tropes, and originality always does the trick. While the fantasy trope will give the reader a familiar ground to focus, the author can show his/her versatility/creativity by planting the original thoughts along the way.
The worn-out processes of fantasy are the same Tolkien rip offs of the genre. For me, as much as I’m a huge fan of Tolkien, I do think the author prevented (for sometime at least) the genre growing. A farmer boy goes out to defeat the dark lord, whose sole person is to conquer the world, guided by a mentor (who dies halfway through the book). Those need to stop. The same old repetitive formula of light versus dark doesn’t really work out these days. Characters should be gray, no shades, multi-layered; not all characters have to be likable.
Also, as much as I love this new wave of grimdark fantasy that’s up and coming, I don’t understand grimdark, gore, and violence, just there for pleasing the masses.
There is a host of fantasy series that I’d love to see come up as shows or movies. So that definitely is a direction where fantasy should head.

 
5. What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?
Struggles to cope up with my depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts have been my real obstacles towards getting my goals done. Although it does help me to project my thoughts on the characters, the plots, and the settings across the writing, it can at times come out as nihilistic, grim, and give a reader an overall sense of bleakness.
The triumphs do include when I try to get my thoughts on the page. The scenes or the characters which were so fleshed out in my mind when they take life in the page in front of me do seem a major satisfaction.
The idea is to keep pushing till you’re exhausted. A blank page sits in front of you, and even if you’ve to write a scene spanning only ten minutes of the story time, you can take at least a lot of time, to think, process and write down in real-life time.

 
6. What fantasy books or films have you enjoyed and why?
Favourite Fantasy Books (In no particular order):
Deadhouse Gates, Midnight Tides, Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson: This is a series which influenced me to take the risks, to go beyond the genre classics that are out there, and makes me want to take risks.
The Darkness that Comes Before and Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker: Such an exquisite piece of literary fiction. A work of such original nature has never been seen in the genre of fantasy.
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin: The depth of character arc and treatment, has been seldom seen in this scale.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has to be one of my favourite fantasy film series. The visual aspects of the film, and the grandeur make me become a twelve year boy again, sniffing through the pages of the Tolkien’s epic series.

 
7. What fantasy books and films have you not liked and why?
The Twilight series were pretty dull, and it seemed like a romantic thread, with nothing in it.
The Mythica series didn’t also do much justice with the genre. It took the same old tropes, and there was no purpose in the overall story.
Neither did I like the later Harry Potter films. They scrapped and changed a lot from the books for my liking.

 
8. Why is fantasy an important genre?
The feel of fantasy is that, it speaks to everyone, regardless of caste, creed, sex, orientation. It binds all the readers, under one umbrella. The feeling of awe, and the creation of something original can only be derived by this genre.

 

 

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I wish Debdip all the best for his future writing. His work-in-progress certainly sounds interesting, a combination of different and unusual characters. His insights into the future of fantasy also show someone committed to keeping the genre alive and well. Keep an eye out for his Ode to the Fallen series!

Russell Proctor   www.russellproctor.com

(Featured picture courtesy of Dreamstime and Creative Commons.)

 

 

Tomorrow’s Authors: B. L Sherrington

Today the first of a series of interviews with unpublished fantasy writers. That’s right, those out there still trying to get their fantasy stories read by the general public. I envy them…they have the opportunity to determine what we’ll be reading in the future. This is a chance  for you to learn what to expect from the fantasy writers still to come.

We begin with B. L. Sherrington.

“Opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on your door. You need to break down their doors to take yourself to the next step” B.L. Sherrington.

B.L. SHERRINGTON was born in London in 1989. Sherrington developed a passion for stories following a childhood filled with many nights reading fantasy books, thanks to the influence of Sherrington’s mother. Sherrington delved into an imagination filled with creativity and boundless possibilities using the people as characters and the backdrop of London as inspiration.

“I’ve always been the kind of person, whose head was bouncing around with ideas. As a child I would make up scenarios my toys would get up to and narrate them to my dad who’s blind. This was around the time my mother bought me a typewriter”. Growing tired of reading other author’s stories, Sherrington developed an affinity for fiction and at the age of eight wrote A Fallen Star, about a star who fell from the sky into the arms of a midwife and was nursed back to health before lighting the sky again over Barnet General Hospital.

“Over the past twenty years, I’ve explored writing in a lot of different mediums. I started as a blogger, and then became a journalist. My favourites have been writing film, theatre and book reviews for Exeunt Magazine and Litro Magazine. In 2015, I took my creative writing more seriously. I was penning short stories and poetry daily and a year later, I began my serialised fantasy novel, Wish Upon A Star on Channillo.”

 

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Cover of “Wish Upon a Star” (artwork by Tatev Ghambarian)

 

“Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Living on a gold-plated cloud on her planet named Lemsi, she is situated above the planets. With control of the weather, the ability to create and destroy worlds, her reputation speaks for herself. Respected for her ability and fearing her level of power, many try to stay as far away from Mother Nature as possible. All except for Martay, a wizard on Mars who rules it’s colony of Foxous”  – WISH UPON A STAR.

I put some questions to B. L. Sherrington:

1) Tell us about your work-in-progress.

I have quite a few! I have just completed my dark fantasy screenplay for a feature film entitled The Legend of Kuse House and I’m collating my short stories and poetry into two e-books, Orphic and Heart of Lion, to release in February.

I am working on two adult fantasy books: Basilar and The Legend of the Rastafari. A Young Adult book series Bobita and two children’s fantasy books, Akila and Deep Sea.

I’m 20K words into Basilar, a story of a sixth-generation fisherman who during rough seas meets a 50ft sea creature, Basilar, who kills using the elements, travelling in between the different seas. I’m hoping it will be completed by mid 2018.

“A creature emerged from the water . At fifty feet tall, with red scales, a curved tail, a square shaped head and long blue horns, Paul was astonished to say the least. The creature scratched through the ivory flag with its razor sharp ivory thick trunk like nails. Paul, terrified, looked at the creature, examining its face. It’s eyes were enlarged black pools of darkness. Soon the creature backed away breathing out a flood of water to the deck of Diana, disappearing instantly.”  From BASILAR

2) Why do you like Fantasy as a genre?

Reality is filled with boundaries and limits. Fantasy gives the freedom to say anything is possible and as a creative writer, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of creating my own world.

3) Who do you see as your writing influences?

So many! Madeline L’Engle, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, L. Frank Baum, Terry Jones, Caroline Thompson, Linda Woolverton and Winnie Holzan.

4) What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”? Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?

I think a bit of both. There are some who like the tradition manner of fantasy writing, but I think the majority are moving towards wanted majestic on a whole new scale. I think Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, is a good blueprint for where fantasy is going. Blending reality with a combination of fairy tales is where the genre is headed.

So many books get adapted into films within a year or two, I think that needs to be considered in the writing process. How will this play out on screen? Or on stage?

5) What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?

Having the confidence to share my writing with the world has been a challenge. But once I did build up the courage to leave myself open to criticism by sharing extracts of my book with my followers on my social media channels, I was pleasantly surprised to the reaction.

I’ve been told Wish Upon A Star is gripping, Bobita has inspired other writers to start their own story and The Legend of the Rastafari, made me someone’s muse. So far, the best experience I’ve had as a writer, is managing to navigate my way through my grief by using it as a backdrop to my stories.

6) What fantasy books or films have you enjoyed and why?

My favourite stories are the ones where the authors create new worlds. They inspire me to think outside the box.

Books: A Wrinkle in Time, James and the Giant Peach, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland.

My favourite films are full of creativity, ingenuity and slightly eccentric, so I love Tim Burton’s films such as Maleficent and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I also love a musical. Both film genre and the theatre. My top two would be Labyrinth and Wicked.

7) What fantasy books and films have you not liked and why?

The Golden Compass and the Twilight series didn’t resonate with me. I felt Twilight was more focused on the love aspect and I didn’t find Lyra in The Golden Compass likeable.

8) Why is fantasy an important genre?

Fantasy goes across religions, age groups, sexual orientations, and race. It manages to unit us all, teaches the power of imagination and in present day when reality is riddled with lies and stress, it’s an escape to bring a bit of happiness.

You can keep up to date with all B. L. Sherrington’s work at www.blsherrington.weebly.com, or follow at @blsherrington on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest & YouTube.

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The Horror of Children’s Stories

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This is repost from an earlier one. It’s still relevant though.

Picture this: a little girl has just thrown a bucket water over a Witch. What happens next is quite disturbing.

With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, melted shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again.”

Now let’s get this straight… a little girl calmly melts an old woman, sweeps the gooey slime she has become out of the door like so much swill, and then calmly cleans her shoe like this sort of thing happened every day.

You might think the extract is taken from the latest gore-filled treat from Permuted Press, but it’s actually from L. Frank Baum’s children’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. A children’s book. Of course, if you are only familiar with the 1939 Judy Garland film, you may remember the witch-melting scene was a little more wholesome. Certainly in the movie Dorothy didn’t have to clean up the disgusting sewage of what used to be a human being like she was doing a simple household chore. And in the movie version Dorothy felt pretty upset about the whole thing as well, even though the witch was evil and had tried to kill her.

Take another story: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Now there are no violent scenes in that timeless classic, surely? Admittedly the Queen of Hearts threatens everyone with having their heads chopped off, but no one is unfortunate to actually have it done. But most of the violence of the Alice books is more subtle. According to Hugh Haughton in his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Carroll’s books (1998), there is an underlying theme of eating and being eaten in the book. The characters are in more danger of being consumed by other characters than anything the Queen of Hearts might threaten. Alice eats and drinks various substances and changes size; the baby oysters are consumed by the Walrus and the Carpenter; the Hatter is obsessed by tea and bread and butter. There is also, of course, more overt violence: the Duchess physically abuses her baby son, the March Hare and the Hatter try to drown the Dormouse in tea, and the terrifying Giant Crow threatens Alice in the forest.

It doesn’t end with those books. In Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, the fairy Tinker Bell is a right bitch. Her first act on seeing Wendy is to get Tootles to shoot her with an arrow in an attempt to kill her. He almost succeeds. Tootles is so distraught he asks Peter to kill him.

Now, the point is that these are probably not events most people recall when remembering these tales. But they are there in the original books.

There have, of course, been many criticisms of traditional fairy tales as being too violent. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and so forth contain considerable murder and mayhem. The difference between them and the more modern stories I’ve referred to is that these stories are folk tales, handed down over many years and added to, extended and changed over generations before being recorded by people like the Brothers Grimm. They were not written specifically for children. The adventures of Alice, Dorothy and Peter Pan were.

So what do we make if this? Are these stories in their original forms just too violent? I say “in their original forms” because each of those I mentioned has been “toned down” when made into films. Disney and Warner Brothers made a point of changing things so the stories were more wholesome for tender readers (or, in their case, viewers). Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch, but feels bad about it at least. Admittedly, modern versions of Alice (I refer specifically to the recent Tim Burton CGI extravaganza) may take liberties with the plot in which they do present a more dangerous version of Wonderland than the Disney version. But this is a modern trend, I submit, and I’ll mention it again later.

My point is (and I’ve taken a while making it) is that there is a wealth of trauma available to writers in children’s tales. Quite often where you wouldn’t expect it. In The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Toad not only steals a motor vehicle, he is actually in involved in numerous car accidents and is thrown in prison as a result. And I’m sure most of us remember the Narnia series by C. S Lewis, which tells of children not only fighting in wars but killing their adversaries with barely a nod at any feelings of guilt afterwards.

Writers might well find ideas in these tales. And that’s a good thing. While I’m not condoning the exposure of children to violence, death and horror, it certainly can entertain the adult reader and inspire the adult writer.

Back when these stories were written, I submit the world was a more violent place. There was no such thing as being an adolescent. One went from the caterpillar stage of childhood to the butterfly stage of adulthood without any inconvenient chrysalis stage of adolescence in between. People grew up earlier. Children’s books were violent because life was violent. It still is these days, but we don’t like to admit it and try to protect our children from its excesses. An example of this is the scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where the Duchess throws her baby boy to Alice (who only just manages to catch him) after singing a song about how beating a child was a justifiable punishment for it sneezing. This would hardly have raised an eyebrow back in 1865. Children were beaten. The world was perhaps no better or worse than it is today, but violence was condoned more and seen as an acceptable solution to social and domestic problems. Carroll was using violence as nonsense, and perhaps as a comment on the philosophy of child-rearing at the time: the air in the Duchess’s house was full of pepper, the baby sneezed as a result, and so the Duchess beat him. Problem solved.

We would not condone such a practice today, even as nonsense, which is why this incident has not, my knowledge, been incorporated into any film adaptations of Alice so far ( I don’t include the Burton film there, as it is so far removed from the original story as to be a separate entity).

Burton’s film does, however, seek to make an adult vision of Wonderland (with a bit of Looking-Glass Land added into it). And that is how the horror of children’s stories can be used to good effect. Tales like Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars is a classic use of a classic to create something new and insightful.

So horror is there in children’s stories. If you sit and read the originals and wonder why they all seem so different to what you thought they were about, or what you remembered when you read them as a kid, then I hope you can take a whole new delight in these children’s stories for grown-ups. And, as a writer, that they inspire you in your own tales of horror and fantasy.